The Neo Geo X is a "be careful what you wish for" sort of ordeal. On one hand you're reviving a premium 90's console for half the price and put on a handheld as well as a docking station that turns it into a home console. On the other hand, you're getting all of the archaic features that come with that time period.
The handheld itself is well built and feels sturdy. It comes with 10 input buttons, a joystick with the trademark 'click'-y noise, a mini-HDMI output, A/V output, mini-USB output, and 3.5mm audio jacks. You can also adjust the brightness and volume on the bottom of the handheld. There is no touchscreen, Wifi connectivity, or regular sized USB jacks for arcade stick action.
First thing I noticed was the clarity of the screen. It boasts a 4.3 inch screen and with the brightness settings mid-way it looked like I was playing through an arcade screen. Games look great on it with no over-scan cutoffs in either aspect ratio. However, the screen is not separated from the rest of the device so the surface as well as the screen area can be scratched all in one go if not careful. It also smudges very easily. It's also nice that you can just use the HDMI cable or A/V cable and connect it straight to device to play on the TV while using the handheld controls.
The buttons feel fine after prolonged use. They're responsive and easy to press. The four shoulder buttons require more effort to press and don't feel as well-made. The placement is everywhere, there's buttons on the top, bottom, and front of the device. Almost in the same way as the PSP however instead of the bottom of the surface some of the buttons are on the bottom of the device. They don't stick out uncomfortably so it can rest easy when standing up but they're not easy to access. To easily reach the volume controls or brightness you have to pause the game and awkwardly reach for them. It takes you out of the immersion.
In the manual the battery life is stated to be 4 hours which is an understatement. I got about 6 hours play time straight on the Neo Geo X and its stated to last longer if you completely drain the battery before you charge it again. However with mobile hardware in today's day and age I would expect a console that runs Neo Geo games to be at least an 8-10 hour battery life as soon as you get it. There is also no hibernation mode unless you count the screen turning off after 15 minutes. If you want to save battery life you'll have to end the game you're playing and shut off the system entirely. Good luck getting back to that last stage in Magician Lord without wasting a good hour.
The Neo Geo X also lacks a save state feature and AES memory card support. Currently there are only two games on the NGX that use this feature but it is entirely disabled on this system. I was surprised by this move since you would figure a portable console that's released over 15 years later than the original would include all of the features found in it.
The docking station is the best accessory in the Neo Geo X Gold package. You plug in your Neo Geo X by attaching it on the inside and filling each of its orifices with the right plugs. Once inserted you can attach the arcade stick also included in the Neo Geo X Gold editions and replicate the Neo Geo AES experience. It has an HDMI output as well as an A/V output and uses its own power supply. Keep in mind, docking the NGX into the docking station is currently the only way to recharge the system. The station itself has a menu button to stop the game and quit out of what you're playing. It's the only way to get back to the menu system when docked which is a drag since it's not like you have to remove cartridges or discs to play another game.
The arcade stick is exactly the same as the one that came with the AES system, the only difference is that it has a USB end instead of the proprietary AES end. The joystick makes the click-y sound and the buttons are nice and big for easy finger placement. In fact I think the design of the controller is TOO much like the original, in a bad way. They didn't want to take risks with it and because of that there is no menu button on the controller or anything else really. It's just the joystick, select and start, and the main four input buttons. Another fault is the cord length for the arcade stick being very short, it's about 3 feet instead of the traditional 6-9 feet cords found on wired gaming controllers nowadays. The HDMI cable isn't that long either so you'll have to be playing pretty close to the system in order to avoid having it drop to the floor or yanked off.
- With the docking station you can replicate the home Neo Geo AES experience and then take it to go with the Neo Geo X.
- The screen has high clarity and looks like you're actually looking through an arcade screen.
- You can plug the HDMI cable or A/V cable into the Neo Geo X itself and play games straight to your TV using the handheld controls.
- Battery should have lasted way longer right out of the box.
- Cables are short all around, the controllers, HDMI cable, and A/V cable are too short for a living room.
- The docking station is currently the only way to charge the system.
- Buttons are placed EVERYWHERE on the handheld.
- Archaic design decisions such as no menu button on the controller is baffling.
The hardware isn't anywhere near impressive by today's standards and with the archaic design decisions it really left me scratching my head. What's most impressive is the "console-within-a-console" design. To be able to have a portable console dock in to a station and replicate a home console experience made me believe that every future system should be like this. There just wasn't enough risk being taken to really make the hardware side of the system really impressive.